Saturday, October 25, 2008

The story of Sam

Pagodas - or Buddhist temples - are scattered right throughout Vietnam, and many of them provide a place of refuge for orphans or abandoned children. Some are terrific, and some are... not.

Sam is 10 years old, and he was left in the care of one pagoda by his father, who loves him dearly but couldn't provide a decent home for his son. It wasn't an easy decision, but the pagoda seemed to care for the kids living there and, hey, even the World Bank was giving them funding, so Sam's father figured they must be pretty good.

But Sam didn't think so. Punishment involved being tied to a tree and beaten. Visitors walked in and out of the pagoda all day, admiring the children like in a zoo and interrupting their games and personal times over every weekend. Nobody was in charge of looking after the children, so they ran wild and nobody cared until some arbitrary rule was broken - and then the punishment was public and severe.

So Sam ran away, dreaming of finding his father. He returned to the street where his father worked as a motorbike taxi driver, only to find that he was no longer there... and nobody knew where he was.

Sam's dad had been coming to visit at the pagoda fairly regularly, so Sam knew he must be around. But soon he had to join a gang of runaway children in order to survive. The kids went begging during the days, and at night they played and slept under bridges.

One day about 10 weeks ago, one of Blue Dragon's older teens met Sam and brought him to our drop in centre.

Sam has been living with us since then, while we tried to unravel his story, verify what he claimed, and look for his father. Several of the staff have been involved, and at times it's been more like a police investigation than a standard social work case.

After weeks of searching, we had a breakthrough on Thursday: we found Sam's father. He is quite old and his health is poor, so he has been unable to work for a long time.

He was shocked to learn that his son had been living on the streets. Despite his bad health, he has been going to the pagoda every couple of weeks to see Sam... and the nuns have been telling him that Sam is there, but "he's at school this morning..." or "he must have gone out to play somewhere but he'll be back in a few hours and we'll tell him you came..."

To make it even worse, Sam's father insists that the pagoda staff have his mobile number and could reach him any time. We've repeatedly asked the pagoda if they knew how to contact the father - and they've claimed they don't know where he is or how to call him.

These huge frustrations have only served to increase the joy of the father-son reunion. Sam has finally found his dad; and now his father knows the truth about where his son has been for the past few months.

Sam is still staying in a Blue Dragon home, but just for a few more days while we help sort out a few family problems. We expect that he'll be living with his dad again by the end of the coming week. They'll need some support - both material and social - to make it work, but both want to be together so I can't see why it should fail!

This has definitely been one of our more complex cases. It sure is nice to see things working out for little Sam.

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1 comment:

hang88 said...

Your story is very meaning and everything you do for the street kids in Viet Nam is, too. I'm a Vietnamese person but I feel ashamed because I didn't do anything to help them. Please tell if you need any help. I'll try to help with all my might.
P/s: I always want to teach children because I'm good at teaching (I think so ^^).